How to Organize Your Bills & Stay on Budget in an Apartment
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When you’re living in an apartment while at college, you and your roommates are responsible for paying the rent, your bills, buying groceries, etc. Managing your money sensibly and staying on budget is something you’ll need to be able to do in order to not spend more than you can afford, keep track of bills, and not blow all your savings.
Here are some tips on how to organize your bills and stay on a budget in an apartment.
1. Set up a payment schedule. Your rent and utility bills are all likely to be due at the same time each month — which means it’s easy to set up a schedule or note the due dates on a calendar so you and your roomies can keep track of how much is due when and to whom.
It’s a good idea to sit down with your roommates and figure out how you all want to handle payments — does one person want to be in charge of paying the rent, another the electric bill and internet, etc.? Will you switch off who pays what each month so you don’t need to pay each other back such large sums?
Look up when each bill is going to be due and if more than one person is going to handle it, make sure all pertinent information, like the account name and password, is written down somewhere everyone can access it. Then keep a tally of who has paid which bill for that month and how much it cost so it’s easier to reimburse that person for your share.
2. Make a budget. Figure out how much money you have coming in on average each month, how much loans, scholarships, grants, or work study you have been awarded for each semester, the price of tuition and fees, the average costs of your share of the rent and utility bills, as well as how much you spend on groceries, textbooks, and other expenses.
Once you’ve got all those numbers written down and have made a list of your expenditures, you can see if you have more money going out than coming in and where you may be able to cut some costs or increase the amount of money you’re getting each month.
There are usually lots of little ways you can save money or make money each semester, whether it’s buying used books or borrowing them from the library, selling class notes or your textbooks from last semester, getting a part-time job, or even opting for a lower speed of internet that will be cheaper each month.
3. Pay with cash. When you’re going to pay for something with cash, you’re more likely to really consider whether or not you need that item and if it’s worth the cost. As opposed to when you pay with a credit card and can easily swipe your payment and not have to worry about the expense until the end of the month, you’ll immediately be out of the cash and it will prompt you to spend with more discretion.
4. Don’t overspend. It can be tempting to go out to eat all the time, hit the bars on the weekends, buy name-brand items at full price, and see movies in theaters whenever you want. But all those expenses add up quickly and are unnecessary. Eating out and going to bars is much more expensive than cooking for yourself and eating or staying in — so don’t go out all the time and instead only indulge every once in a while or when there’s a good deal or Happy Hour special or something.
Additionally, when grocery shopping, it’s best to hit the supermarket armed with a specific list of what you need and the knowledge of what’s on sale, along with coupons that can save you some money on the items you’re going to buy. You also may want to buy store-brand items when possible versus name-brand as you’ll save a nice amount of money on items that way as well. Lastly, when it comes to entertainment, keep your spending in check — rather than going out to see a new movie in theaters, host a movie night at your apartment or a Netflix binge session with friends and save yourself the cost of a ticket.
5. Save for a rainy day. Just because you may have some extra money left over after a paycheck or spent less than you allotted for your budget doesn’t mean you have to spend it. If you did manage to stay on budget and even under-budget, put aside that extra money for a rainy day — you never know when you may have a larger bill or some other unexpected expense that you couldn’t plan for.
Use these tips to keep your bills and payments organized and to stay on budget in your apartment — your wallet and bank account will thank you!
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